When I talked to cookbook author Susie Fishbein in September, she was at home in Livingston, New Jersey poised to whip up her mother’s recipe of peach cake with soy milk for Shabbat dinner.
The 44-year-old mother of four (her youngest child is 10, the oldest 18) is proudly awaiting publication of her eighth cookbook in a series that has motivated Jewish cooks since its inception in 2003. “Kosher by Design Cooking Coach: Recipes, Tips and Techniques To Make Anyone a Better Cook” hits the shelves October 23rd.
Not one to kick back resting on accolades, Fishbein travels often for inspiration or to make store, TV and food festival appearances.
Chatting with her, she’s completely forthcoming about her lack of culinary training and it’s immediately clear that family comes first and accomplishments are a team effort. Even after selling more than 450,000 books, Fishbein sounds enthusiastic, approachable and genuinely thrilled that the “KBD” series has resonated with people from so many different countries and backgrounds.
Are you a trained chef?**
I’m not a chef. When people call me a chef, it always makes me feel bad. Whenever I catch that mistake I correct them. It comes up on every show. I’m always asked where did you get your culinary degree and I say I’m self-taught. Then there’s a sigh of relief — (as if to say) I can do that too, you don’t need a degree.
How did you become a cookbook author?**
Twelve years ago I had worked on a community cookbook and just fell in love with the business of writing cookbooks. That first book “Kosher by Design” was a huge success.
How do you come up with ideas for this series?
My books mirror where I am in my life. My seventh book “Kosher by Design Teens and 20-Somethings” was written when I had a kid going off to college. When I hit 40 I wrote “Kosher by Design Lightens Up.”
Initially I used recipes from family and friends. Now I see what excites people and create all new recipes. Generally I take one day off after finishing a book then start on the next…Ten years ago I did a book tour that has never ended. My schedule is full for the next year and a half.
How do you test recipes?
My family is my first line of defense. I also try recipes on friends and neighbors.
How do you think kosher food has changed over the years?
It’s very easy to be kosher now. It was very different for other generations…There’s a huge percentage of ingredients becoming kosher. Companies see that kosher customers are loyal people…By the time I wrote my second book “Kosher by Design Entertains,” the kosher market had exploded with Indian and Asian ingredients.
What are your favorite dishes to cook?
I don’t have favorites but I favor cooking over baking. Baking is very much a scientific method, you’re not using ingredients you have on hand.
How do you deal with such a demanding lifestyle? I’m a mother of four and a working woman. I’m so grateful that I have this job. I was at the right place at the right time and in an industry that has grown around me. I’m a high energy person, and I don’t require a ton of sleep.
Do you ever run out of ideas in the kitchen, do you ever tire of cooking?
No. My ears are always open. I like to shop at places that might inspire me, such as Chelsea Market or on Arthur Ave. I look at menus from restaurants. My antennae are always up.
This summer I hosted a culinary tour of Tuscany. There was a rabbi for rabbinical supervision. We’d be sitting in a vineyard eating ingredients that were in the ground three hours earlier. We ate veal scaloppini, lasagna Bolognese…. I did my own tour of Spain the previous summer.
I definitely don’t get bored. I might go back to some of the recipes in my old cookbooks where I rediscover recipes I know and loved.
Can you share any secrets of your success?
I’m not on YouTube and I don’t do any blogging. It’s less special if people can access you all the time…I’m a huge control freak in general and regarding my career. People are always waiting to see what I’m going to do next.
Do you cook every night?
I have a day off on Saturday. We lounge around on Sundays. Sunday lunch is catch as catch can. Nights I do a cooking show, my family fends for themselves.
Try out one of Fishbein’s newest recipes, courtesy of her newest book.
This dish shouts Rosh Hashanah on a plate (but is delicious year round)! Honey and other sticky ingredients are a cinch to measure. Just coat the measuring cup or spoon with nonstick cooking spray and the honey will slide right out.
Make sure to line your pan so cleanup will be a snap.
12 chicken parts, bone-in, with skin, legs, thighs, breasts
nonstick cooking spray
½ cup silan (date syrup) or honey
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup pomegranate juice
¼ cup teriyaki sauce; I like Kikkoman brand
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon margarine
fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish
1) Use foil to line a baking dish that holds the chicken pieces snugly. Arrange the chicken in a single layer. Set aside.
2) Preheat oven to 400°F.
3) In a small pot over medium heat, whisk the silan or honey, brown sugar, pomegranate juice, teriyaki sauce, cornstarch, tomato paste, thyme, and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat for a minute or two until thickened. Whisk in the margarine. Reduce heat slightly. Cook for 1 minute. Generously brush the pomegranate mixture on each piece of chicken. Drizzle additional sauce over the top of each piece.
4) Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink at the bone. The dark meat may take a little longer, if so, remove the white meat to a platter and cook the dark until done. Brush with the sauce in the pan every 15 minutes during cooking. After 45 minutes, turn on the broiler and broil the chicken until the skin is brown and crispy; keep a close eye on it. Transfer to a platter and baste again with pan sauce. Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and some of the pan sauce.